Arrest made in Huachuca City church arson case

An arrest has been made in the arson fire that destroyed Huachuca City United Methodist Church on Oct. 18.

HUACHUCA CITY — An arrest has been made as part of an ongoing investigation into the arson fires, criminal damage and trespass of Huachuca City Methodist Church.

At around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Huachuca City police officers arrested 18-year-old Sierra Vista resident Hailie S. Serr on eight felony counts involving the massive Oct. 18 fire that destroyed most of the church building located at 506 N. Gila St. Another fire at the church was reported on Nov. 27, as well as a brush fire near the church, which also occurred in October.

A connection to criminal activity at other locations within Huachuca City during this period is being reviewed, according to the Huachuca City Police Department. That activity includes, but is not limited to, criminal damage and trespass.

“The Huachuca City Police Department will continue to investigate until all leads are exhausted,” said Police Chief James Thies. “I am proud of the work the officers have accomplished up to this point regarding these investigations.

“From the start, the investigation has involved a collaborative effort between the Huachuca City Police Department, Whetstone Fire District and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). More recently, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office has also been assisting us.”

Significant leads were developed through the multi-agency collaboration, resulting in the arrest of Serr, who was booked into the Cochise County jail on two felony counts of arson of structure and property, two felony counts of burglary in the third degree and unlawful entry, two felony counts of aggravated criminal damage and defacing a place of worship, and two felony counts of criminal trespass and first-degree desecration.

Huachuca City’s recently elected Mayor Johann Wallace grew up in the town, and said he is deeply troubled by the loss of the church.

“As a kid growing up here, the road leading up to the church was always called ‘church hill road,’ and the church itself as ‘church on the hill,’ he said. “Through the years, the church has become a landmark for our town.

“It was upsetting to see something that has been in this town for so long destroyed.”

Wallace also reported being “ecstatic” that the cooperative effort between agencies resulted in identifying a suspect in the church arson case.

Town Manager Matthew Williams also weighed-in about the arrest.

“The Town of Huachuca City is thankful for all the hard work of law enforcement and firemen in the investigation and arrest in this case. We are proud of our law enforcement and fire staff,” he said.

“We wish the best for Huachuca City Methodist Church in the future.”

The town’s press release noted that the Huachuca City Police Department has spent a significant amount of time and resources developing the different investigations. Additional arrests are pending the review of related incidents by the Cochise County Attorney’s Office, according to the press release.

Thies said the town of Huachuca City and his department “sincerely appreciate the efforts of the men and women from the Whetstone Fire District and ATF” and he “anticipates bringing the investigation to a successful conclusion soon.”

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